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'Forced hiatus' on CRD sewage project an opportunity, says Saanich councillor
Capital Regional District directors meet once again Wednesday to discuss salvaging the region’s $788-million secondary sewage treatment project, but the “forced hiatus” provides a window for new ideas, said Saanich Coun. Vic Derman.
Derman, who also sits as a director on the CRD’s core area liquid waste management committee, intends to put forward a notice of motion next week to ask for an overview of the latest technology and the feasibility of a distributed treatment model.
“It might be appropriate to have an investigation led by a retired deputy minister or someone of similar status,” Derman said. The process wouldn’t need the time and expense of a full-scale Request for Proposals, but could still inform directors on “what’s out there,” Derman said.
“We’re not going anywhere right now, and that’s pretty obvious,” he said. “There’s been an attempt to resuscitate the old project, and for lack of a better term, buy off Esquimalt. I don’t think that will be successful."
Only two smaller projects, the Craigflower pump station and a $760,000 design of an attenuation tank at Arbutus Road, are continuing as planned while the Seaterra program awaits direction on a way forward from CRD directors.
During that wait, Derman said directors need a “sounding” of available sewage treatment technology to ensure they’re building the best plants for the right price.
“We need an independent examination of the technology out there, the potential for architecture, what are examples elsewhere, and get enough information to figure out whether a distributed model is worth pursuing further or whether we stick with the direction we went, but without McLoughlin Point.,” he said.
Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins is already involved in that process. Staff from West Shore communities, Esquimalt and the City of Victoria are currently working on terms of reference to move ahead on a distributed model study under the umbrella of the CRD, she said. The team had hoped to present those terms at Wednesday’s meeting, but more work needs to be done.
“Our technical staff believe we may be able to provide sewage treatment that not only meets regulatory standards and guidelines, but beats them by standard and by cost,” Desjardins said.
The CRD is required by federal legislation to treat its sewage to a secondary or greater level by 2020, and the province has set a wastewater treatment deadline of 2018.
An extension to that provincial deadline will likely be necessary if the CRD can come up with a viable alternative to the current plan. Even with the current project, an extension will likely be needed to find an alternative site to McLoughlin Point.
“We have five of seven affected municipalities working on a new way forward,” Desjardins said. “We need Saanich and Oak Bay to come on-side, because we don’t want them to get left behind.”
Regardless of the outcome, the Seaterra program that included McLoughlin Point as a wastewater site is now effectively dead, she said.
“The sooner everyone understands that, the better off we’ll be coming up with solutions,” Desjardins said.